Whooping cough cases are increasing again now Covid-related social distancing measures have ended, an expert has warned.

There have been five recorded cases of whooping cough in Southampton so far in 2023, with an additional case being reported in Eastleigh.

A total of 1,141 cases of whooping cough have been reported nationally, higher than the two previous years combined – with 450 instances of the illness being recorded in 2022, and 454 a year earlier.

Dr Gayatri Amirthalingam, Consultant Epidemiologist at UK Health Security Agency, said: “Before the introduction of routine immunisation, whooping cough used to affect tens of thousands of people.

“Thanks to vaccination this has dropped dramatically but the infection hasn’t gone away completely as neither infection nor vaccination can provide life-long protection.”

Dr Amirthalingam also said it's vital that pregnant women get vaccinated in order to protect both themselves and their baby.

Whooping cough affects all ages, but for babies and very young children, it can be serious.

Pregnant women are recommended to get vaccinated to protect their babies from birth and young babies are offered three doses of the whooping cough jab at eight, 12 and 16 weeks old.

He added: “Social distancing and lockdown measures imposed across the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the spread of other infections, including whooping cough.

“As expected, we are now seeing cases of whooping cough increase again, so it’s vital pregnant women ensure they get vaccinated to protect their baby.”

Though lab-confirmed cases of whooping cough are on the rise, they still remain lower than pre-pandemic levels.

A spokesperson for the UK Health Security Agency added: “We are seeing a slight rise in a number of winter infections such as flu and norovirus but nothing unusual, in fact lower than seasonal five-year averages.”